Evidence for pollinator declines has led to concern that inadequate pollination services may limit crop yields. The global trade in commercial bumble bee (Bombus spp.) colonies provides pollination services for both glasshouse and open-field crops. For example, in the United Kingdom, commercial colonies of nonnative subspecies of the bumble bee Bombus terrestris L. imported from mainland Europe are widely used for the pollination of raspberries, Rubus idaeus L. The extent to which these commercial colonies supplement the services provided by wild pollinators has not been formally quantified and the impact of commercial bumble bees on native bees visiting the crop is unknown. Here, the impacts of allowing commercially available bumble bee colonies to forage on raspberry canes are assessed in terms of the yield of marketable fruit produced and the pollinator communities found foraging on raspberry flowers. No differences were found in the abundance, diversity, or composition of social bee species observed visiting raspberry flowers when commercial bumble bees were deployed compared with when they were absent. However, weight of marketable raspberries produced increased when commercial bees were present, indicating that wild pollinator services alone are inadequate for attaining maximum yields. The findings of the study suggests that proportional yield increases associated with deployment of commercial colonies may be small, but that nevertheless, investment in commercial colonies for raspberry pollination could produce very significant increases in net profit for the grower. Given potential environmental risks associated with the importation of nonnative bumble bees, the development of alternative solutions to the pollination deficit in raspberry crops in the United Kingdom may be beneficial.
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Vol. 104 • No. 1